wide field astrophotography
The Pinwheel Galaxy (M101, NGC 5457) is a face-on spiral galaxy sitting roughly 21 million light years from Earth in the constellation Ursa Major (The Great Bear). It is about twice the size of our Milky Way Galaxy and contains an estimated one trillion stars.
M101 Pinwheel Galaxy and the Supernova (SN 2023ixf)
On May 19, 2023 an exploding star was spotted 21 million light years away in an outer spiral arm of the Pinwheel Galaxy M101 (see annotated image below). It was first reported by amateur astronomer Koichi Itagaki (Japan) and was subsequently named “SN 2023ixf” and classified as a type II (core collapse) supernova.
SN 2023ixf is expected to remain visible (with telescope) for several months but will eventually fade away. Astronomers suspect that it will either leave a neutron star or black hole behind.
Interesting side note: While we are just seeing it now, the star actually exploded 21 million years ago. It has taken all this time for the photons of light to travel across space and reach us here on Earth.
This first attempt at capturing M101 was shot with a Nikon DSLR (D750) and a wide field (61mm) telescope from Bortle 5 skies in June 2021. Also seen in the image below and to the right of M101 is the dwarf galaxy NGC 5474.